Dan Martin misses out again, Chris Froome looks unflappable and Vincenzo Nibali's struggles in today's talking points
Dan Martin can’t catch a break
Five seconds on the Mur de Huy, five seconds on the Mûr-de-Bretagne climb; the two stages tailor-made for Dan Martin just didn’t go his way.
He looked to have left it too late on the Flèche Wallonne finish last Monday, but the rampant Chris Froome and Joaquim Rodriguez would have given anyone trouble on that day, while the Irishman was unable to react to Alexis Vuillermoz’s triumphant move after getting boxed in by the lead group on the right hand side of the road on stage eight’s finish.
The Frenchman bested Martin by one second and one place on the Mur de Huy, but he certainly cut a figure of frustration after doing almost everything right on the second of the short, sharp finishing climbs of the Tour. The luck just didn’t go his way.
No doubt Martin will have his eye on the only stage of a similar vain into Rodez on the Tour’s 13th day, but that climb might not be long enough or steep enough to see off the fast men.
And as one of three leader’s in Cannondale-Garmin’s squad, the mountain attacks might be left to Ryder Hesjedal and Andrew Talansky. But Martin has won mountain stages before, so don’t put it past him to pull out another surprise in the Alps or Pyrenees this year.
Chris Froome shows his strength…again
No burden of the yellow jersey here for Froomedog, who continues to show some incredible form in a first week that many thought would catch him out.
While Alberto Contador has managed to remain fairly anonymous without losing oodles of time, Froome has taken the race by the scruff of the neck. He did it on the Mur de Huy and he did it on Saturday on the climb in Mûr-de-Bretagne.
Riding off the front, ahead of his closest rivals, it never looked like the Sky leader was in with a chance of beating the likes of Peter Sagan or Alejandro Valverde to the line for a stage win even if Vuillermoz hadn’t attacked.
But he flexed his (non-literal) muscles, showed his strength, as the pace he set saw off defending champion Vincenzo Nibali, who didn’t look quite so imperious…
Worrying times for Vincenzo Nibali
Another ten seconds slipped away for Nibali on stage eight, and while there’s clearly a substantial of racing to come in this Tour, these are ominous signs for the Italian.
It’s not the high mountains, but Nibali has been unable to match Froome on either Huy or Bretagne, with a 1-48 deficit to overcome already.
Nairo Quintana sits even further back, but there’s still a hint that he’ll be able to turn it on when the race hits the high roads after looking better towards the end of this week.
Nibali impressed on the cobbles again, but his element of surprise is gone. He was matched by every one of his GC rivals. There’s just that lack of feeling that he’s going to be able to turn this around.
A distinct lack of form in the build-up to the race didn’t hurt him 2014, but losing little bits of time here and there are making a hard challenge harder before the he even hits the mountains.
Sagan back in green, but still no victory
Peter Sagan’s running out of stages. In an almost complete repeat of 2014’s feat, the Slovakian seems to be aiming to take a green jersey without a stage win.
Three second places, two thirds and a fourth have seen Sagan rise above André Greipel in the points classification, but once again he seemed to let opportunity slip away today with fourth place on a stage where the other sprinters has already fallen away.
He claimed he was marked out of stage five when Zdenek Stybar soloed to victory, with some truth to the fact that no-one wants to help Sagan to the final 100 metres on one of those finishes to hard for sprinters, but too flat for the faster, lighter guys.
Again today it was a case of looking around at those next to him, waiting for someone to help chase, but nothing doing. One of these days he’ll have to take a chance, but it seems he’s caught between a rock and hard place.
It’s the kind of things that’s occasionally cost him in the Classics, but its something he needs to find a way of getting around. Often looking like he’s fighting a lone battle with his Tinkoff-Saxo teammates protecting Alberto Contador, there’s still time and stages for Sagan to take a first stage win since the 2013 race.
The Eritreans are still celebrating
It’s history in the making, so why shouldn’t they celebrate? Daniel Teklehaimanot will hold onto the polka-dot jersey at least until Tuesday’s stage, as Joaquim Rodriguez failed to take any points by not finishing in the top two on Saturday’s finishing climb.
Not only is it great for the Eritreans, but everyone is seeming to care about the King of the Mountain’s classification again.